The development and use of phase-encoded functional MRI designs

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Phase-encoded designs advanced the early development of functional MRI, enabling the "killer app" of retinotopic mapping, which helped demonstrate fMRI's value to a skeptical scientific public. The design, also called "the traveling wave", remains in wide use today, due to its ability to easily measure neural activity in a parameterized set of experimental conditions. In phase-encoded designs, stimuli defined by a numerical parameter, for example visual eccentricity, are presented continuously in the order specified by the parameter. The stimulus parameter that produces maximum response can be recovered from the timing of neural activity, i.e. its phase. From the outset, phase-encoded designs were used for two related, but complementary purposes: 1) to measure aggregate response properties of neurons in a voxel, for example the average visual field location of receptive fields, and 2) to segregate the set of voxels that corresponds to an organized cortical region, for example a retinotopically mapped visual area. This short review will cover the history and current uses of phase-encoded fMRI, while noting the ongoing tension in the field between the brain mapping and computational neuroimaging approaches.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1195-1200
Number of pages6
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 15 2012

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by NSF - BCS-1028584 . Thanks to Brian Wandell for suggestions and jogging my memory about the olden days.

Copyright 2013 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Cortical map
  • Retinotopy
  • Topography
  • Traveling wave

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